Tom’s Take on Season 13
"Adventurous theater in Astoria"

-- The New York Times

Tom’s Take on Season 13

Programming a season, especially one with only two mainstage shows in it, is a challenging activity.  A well-programmed season should contain balance – shows that complement and contrast each other, that both speak to and challenge our current audience, as well as bring in new audiences.  It also has to be a very timely choice, a show which may be right one year may not be right the next because of what is happening in the world or in our neighborhood.  Each year Tom Wojtunik programs the two mainstages and the additional new works series for APAC, and although when the season was announced a couple weeks ago you learned what we are doing this season, Tom takes this opportunity to explain a little about why he made the choices he did.  


A few weeks ago APAC announced the programming for our 13th Season: The Cottage, a new play by Sandy Rustin, and Allegro, a musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein. This is my sixth year as Artistic Director, and so my sixth time programming a full APAC season. While it’s one of my favorite things about the job, it’s also the most challenging. In general I don’t have a hard time making decisions (a helpful trait in the rehearsal room), but this is one part of my job I tend to ruminate over for an absurdly long time.

When I took over as AD in 2008, the company had been producing revivals of plays and musicals, almost exclusively. As a director my heart is in new work, and it was a goal of mine to transition APAC into a place where we could confidently produce new work on our mainstage, and trust that our audience would follow us. We started by introducing a new play reading series, and by the fall of 2010 I thought we were ready to give it a go—our production of Joshua Conkel’s MilkMilkLemonade was a critical and audience success, and since then we have premiered a new play every fall. MilkMilk was followed by Ashlin Halfnight’s A Hard Wall at High Speed and Gregory S. Moss’s Billy Witch.


Sandy Rustin

Sandy Rustin

With the help of APAC’s former Literary Manager, Jennifer Lane (who recently moved to the west coast), we spent all of last year reading countless submissions as well as soliciting scripts from writers, directors and other organizations that we trust. Gayle Seay, half of APAC’s casting team Wojcik|Seay Casting, sent me the script for The Cottage in April, while we were heavy into Blood Brothers rehearsals. I put off reading it until one night between performances when I read it over dinner and a glass of wine and couldn’t stop laughing. The play is by Sandy Rustin, an accomplished actress whose writing career has started to really take off. Her musical Rated R [for Parenthood] had a run Off-Broadway and is now being performed all over the country.

The Cottage is a smart, entertaining farce, in the style of a Noel Coward play. I knew APAC would be able to cast it well and that we could handle the design challenges of the play. It also made sense as the stand-alone play of our 13th Season. Because APAC only produces two mainstages a year, I often find myself passing on plays and musicals that would fill out a larger season beautifully, but don’t quite hold up as the ONE play or the ONE musical we are choosing to produce.


Rodgers & Hammerstein

Rodgers & Hammerstein

Allegro, the third musical collaboration from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, followed their groundbreaking successes Oklahoma! and Carousel. Audiences were so excited to see what the wonder-team would write next that at the time Allegro had the largest advanced sale in Broadway history.  As it turns out, Allegro was as influential as their first two musicals, though it hasn’t had the staying-power of their biggest shows. Still it was the first musical to do away with scene changes in the staging—instead the storytelling was accomplished through constant movement, with the action never stopping. It was also the first “concept” musical—a musical where the overall metaphor of the show is more important than the actual narrative. Without Allegro, there never would have been a Cabaret, Chicago, Company, Follies or A Chorus Line (to name a few).

I’ve been thinking about the show for APAC for a few years. It contains some incredibly haunting and theatrical moments—as powerful as anything R&H have ever written. But there are also many challenges in the material. I ran the idea past Pat Simon, a mentor of mine from college, and a member of APAC’s Advisory Board. Pat’s excitement for the show gave me the confidence that it wasn’t a crazy idea, and she introduced me to Bruce Pomahac, the Director of Music for The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, who has been an invaluable resource as we begin the pre-production process on APAC’s production.

There’s a lot to figure out with Allegro, as I endeavor to unlock a way to tell this story that is resonant with modern audiences but stays true to what its authors were attempting to accomplish in 1947. Luckily I have surrounded myself with smart, trusted collaborators, and we have begun one of my favorite things about directing a musical—a thoughtful process of attacking it from every angle, meeting regularly for the next seven months before rehearsals start, and feeding off each other’s ideas.

I hope to see you at the theatre this season!

One Comment

  1. Martha Yurkins
    Sep 18, 2013

    Season 13! WOW! Having been to most of APAC’s works and having been thoroughly entertained, moved emotionally, laughed long and loud – I can’t wait for this new season!

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